I’m home sick today. It doesn’t happen very often but the lest two weeks have seen me sicker than I have been in years. This is the third day of work I’ve missed since Christmas and that’s a lot for me. Like many former military folks I know I don’t like to give in to illness (I have been guilty of running while having bronchitis) so I have to be in bad shape before I’ll take a sick day. I’m not really sure what I have (it’s not the flu) so I’m going to see my doctor and get this knocked out once and for all.
How did I get this? Well, I’m glad you asked. I picked up this little bit of nastiness from my wife who, as far as we can tell, picked it up from her nail technician. Yes, her nail tech. She had her nails done right before Christmas and, when she started to get sick a couple of days later, related to me that her nail tech had been sick as well. “Wonderful”, I thought. “Why don’t people just stay home when they’re sick?”
When cold and flu season hits people complain about those who show up at work or school, coughing and sneezing, but have no qualms about sharing the wealth themselves. Why? There are several reasons:
1.) No time. There are a lot of people who working in jobs that don’t offer sick leave. How can you take time off to be sick if you don’t have it to begin with? Others offer sick leave but not very much; a friend of mine once worked in a job that accrued sick leave at the rate of one hour per month. 12 hours per year isn’t much and soon anyone in that position would be dipping into their vacation time. Some workers have even reported being penalized for taking sick leave. It’s illegal to punish workers for taking sick leave but we all know that it’s possible to do and very difficult to prove. Who wants to risk losing their job simply because they have a communicable disease?
2. ) No money. Closely related to the lack of sick leave is the lack of paid sick leave. In many jobs if you’re not there you’re not getting paid. This is a difficult situation for low-wage earners or small business owners whose livelihoods depend on their being at work every day. Keeping the bottom line healthy means working even when they’re not.
3. ) No support. For working parents, having a sick child can mean some tough choices. They can keep the child at home and deal with the work-related issues or send Junior to school or daycare and hope for the best. Schools and child-care centers are fast-breeding reactors for germs; sending sick kids into these environments virtually guarantees the spread of even the mildest colds.
Colds and flu can spread rapidly so think about that whenever you have one or suspect that you do. Staying home from work or keeping a sick child home from school may not be the most palatable choice but think about your co-workers, your friends, your child’s teachers…do you really want to spread whatever you have around to them? They may be less than understanding of your reasons for placing them in jeopardy and much less than grateful to catch what you have. So bite the bullet and keep it to yourself. We’ll all thank you for it!